The highly-touted Princeton Rays shortstop had the best day of his young career Friday night, belting three home runs and driving in nine runs in the P-Rays’ 16-2 road rout over Burlington.
Rondon drew international attention when he signed a $2.9 million free agent contract with the Tampa Bay organization on July 7, 2014 – his 16th birthday. He never found his footing in his first professional season, posting a .166/.256/.234 slash line for the Rays’ Gulf Coast League affiliate in 2015.
Rondon doubled, drove in a run and scored twice in his Appalachian League on Thursday night, a 7-4 win at Burlington Athletic Stadium. Friday, in front of 1563 fans gathered for the Royals’ fireworks night, Rondon was explosive.
The 17-year old went the opposite way for his first home run, lofting a 1-2 pitch from Burlington starter Andre Davis just inside the foul pole in the right field corner, a two-run blast the put the P-Rays ahead 4-0 in the top of the 1st.
Rondon most definitely pulled his second homer, turning an 0-1 fastball from reliever Jose Veras into a laser-beam three-run shot to left that staked Princeton to an 8-1 lead in the 6th.
Rondon saved his best for last. With the bases loaded and two out in the 8th, he caught up to a 2-1 pitch from Anthony Kidston and crushed it into a grand slam that closed out the scoring.
The home runs were the first three of Rondon’s career.
Rondon’s fireworks display obscured a big night from catcher Rafelin Lorenzo, who finished a triple short of the cycle – including a two-run homer in the 7th -- driving in three runs and scoring three times. Right field Eleardo Cabrera reached base four times in six plate appearances and scored four runs.
The Princeton pitching staff flourished with the run support. The starter, 18-year old left-hander Resly Linares, lasted four innings, allowing one run – a solo home run by Zane Evans in the 4th -- on two hits with three walks and one strikeout. Nineteen-year old Sandy Brito worked two solid relief innings – giving up only a solo homer by Chris DeVito in the 6th – and returning P-Ray Ethan Clark finished with three hitless innings, allowing only one baserunner.